April 20, 2012 at 6:05 AMMy fortieth birthday came and went last fall without much fanfare. I wasn't really what you'd call excited to be the Big 4-0, but I at least didn't have a break down.
I didn't go buy an expensive little red convertible, hire a steamy pool boy with a six pack, or any other out-of-character thing for "my midlife crisis"...no, I decided to learn to play the violin. Rather, I succumbed to the overwhelming longing to play that beautiful instrument.
You see, there is something buried deep within me that wants...needs...to get OUT. But in order to do that, it needs a voice. And the only suitable voice is the soulful singing of strings.
I realized recently that this journey of Finding My Voice is beginning much like a baby learning to talk. First there are sounds, then babbling, then muddled words and cute little ways of saying thing wrongly, all a progression of acquiring language skills and becoming proficient in one's native tongue. Some are very adept at speaking, others...not so much.
So it also seems, to me, with learning to play the violin. First you make sounds, some strange, some high-pitched screeching at times. Then you learn how to control the bow better, how to make the sound correctly. You learn simple rhythms, notes, how to put them together to make an actual piece of music. You begin to speak the language of the violin.
I've had three lessons now. I'm working hard to learn to correctly position myself, to relax, to breathe...so I can become proficient and adept at playing this instrument I love. I'm making sounds...a bit of babbling, perhaps.
I know much work and practice lie ahead of me and I look forward to it. I practice every moment I can get a chance...I have 6ths going through my head right now since my teacher taught me those this week. I want to sneak into my closet, get out my violin and play, but one can not really "sneak" and play the violin. My family is sleeping soundly...I know better.
And so I wait. But inside, the voice of my violin is singing. I do not want to be misunderstood when speaking, I don't want to turn people away with my singing, so I will practice, practice, practice...always reaching for the next level of this language I'm learning.
I close my eyes and see myself playing beautiful music on this violin...this new part of me that I'm getting to know, that I'm already completely in love with. It is like breathing...to not play is almost like not having air to breathe! I must!!
I started at 29 years old. This is my 7th month :)
It's also encouraging to hear that people have started playing at an older age than I and have been able to do well. I'm not aiming to join an orchestra or be famous...I just want to play. But I've read a few comments around violinist.com essentially saying that it's really a great experience - I'm open to it, if the opportunity should present itself I guess, but it's not my goal.
@michael, I'm so thankful that my family is supportive, but I know that waking them up in the middle of the night would not go over well at all!! Honestly, I wouldn't mind annoying the neighbors ha ha...they tend to be rather loud, and we're in houses not apartments. I do try to be respectful though. And I agree with you completely that playing for spiritual enrichment is better than playing for money!
@Marsha, I'm glad I could put your feelings into words...I wasn't quite sure I was exactly saying what I was feeling, but you get it ;) I guess you either get it or you don't, and if you don't, you're probably not real interested in playing the violin!
@Ronny...oh, I love the cello too! It's not a very "practical" instrument, at least not for me...not very portable. I wouldn't mind learning that some day as well.
Again, thank you all for the encouragement! It really means a lot (:
Thanks again for the blog!
I, too, decided to learn the violin as part of my midlife crisis. I've been taking lessons since September, and have my first recital next Sunday -- 4 pieces including two solos. I'm excited!
Your language analogy is apt. I split my time between learning to read music, and just "picking" tunes by ear. Sometimes you can play a note, and realize that it's part of a melody you know, and before you know it, you're playing the whole thing. (Try the Star Spangled Banner - it's actually pretty easy to learn since you probably know it by heart.)
You might like the viola, as well. You can take the same fingerings and play, applying what you've learned from the violin. (You just space your fingers out a tad more, and apply a little more pressure to your bowing.) The deepness of the C touches my soul.
Regarding disturbing your family, try practicing with a mute. It really helps.
Good luck, and if you'd like to keep in touch, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
ps: If you have the ability to record yourself playing, I encourage it. I have video of myself from my very first time, and it's amazing how far I've come in such a short time (if I do say so myself!)
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